Sunday, August 28, 2011

Wasp Workshop with Eric Eaton

We just returned from the EDGE Advanced Naturalist Workshop on Wasps, led by Eric Eaton, Principal Author of the Kaufman Field Guide to the Insects of North America. This was an informative and fun weekend, held at the Cincinnati Museum Center’s Richard and Lucile Durrell Edge of Appalachia Preserve. The Eulett Center, pictured left, is a great place to study and learn with large classrooms and the latest technology for viewing your subject.Although the focus of the workshop was on Wasps, we spent a lot of time in the field studying wasps and their prey. Caterpillars are often used as a nursery for parasitic wasp larvae. We had some great looks at wasps, but they weren't easy to photograph. I did learn that those drab moths that I see flying around my back door at night can be pretty spectacular in the caterpillar stage. Take a look at some of these photos: a Stinging Rose Caterpillar,

two larval stages of the Black-waved flannel moth on one leaf (the white fuzz is the 1st stage)

A Monkey-slug or Hag Moth.

and Red-humped caterpillars.

This tiny Purple-Crested Slug
looked great and made key identification features easy to see when Eric used the center's interactive microscope and display.

Adams County has some of the most diverse plant and animal life in Ohio, and many of these finds were located at Lynx Prairie.
Eric explains the Malaise trap and how it's used to collect specimens.

I now find it impossible to go outdoors and just look at one thing! Every living thing is related and has a unique purpose, even if at times it seems painful to watch. Once we became aware of the world of wasps, they were everywhere. Here a beautiful Orb weaver fell right before our eyes on to a picnic table after being stung by a wasp. The spider was paralyzed from the venom and most likely never to recover. If we hadn't interrupted the hunt, the wasp would have dragged it off to its chamber to be food for its larvae when they emerge.
In addition to wasps and prey, we had some good birds, butterflies, plants and many other species to entertain us. Stepping outside proves to never be a dull moment!
Here a caterpillar is busy eating his lunch.
Many thanks to Eric for sharing his vast knowledge and making this weekend so enjoyable.
Of course, Chris Bedel and Mark Zloba, our "edge" hosts, made sure that we were well fed, and keeping us on schedule. I'm looking forward to more workshops in the future.
For more information on Caterpillars, be sure to mark your calenders now for the next Midwest Native Plant Conference, July 27-28-29, 2012 at Bergamo Center in Dayton. David Wagner, author of "Caterpillars of Eastern North America" will be the Saturday night keynote.
Hope to see you in the field soon!

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